Posted on 20/03/2013
We last updated you on our plans to establish a workplace nursery in December, when we explained that we were running a procurement exercise to appoint a workplace nursery provider, which should conclude by April, at which point we could apply to HMRC for workplace nursery status, giving savings for parents through the salary sacrifice scheme.
Outcome of the tender process
Disappointingly, we have been unable to appoint a provider through that tender process. We had seven initial expressions of interest, but only one formal tender, and that provider was not able to work to terms that would satisfy HMRC requirements as a workplace nursery. These include the nursery being owned, managed and branded by Royal Holloway, with only care subcontracted to a specialist provider; terms that are clearly too restrictive for providers.
Changes to childcare subsidy
Alongside this, there is a shift in the provision of financial support for parents more broadly. Many other organisations – even HMRC itself – are closing their workplace nurseries, in recognition of the fact that subsidy is better provided directly to parents, and used in the setting of their choice, rather than tied to a single workplace nursery, which might be inconvenient to them. Currently, this subsidy is provided through government childcare vouchers, and this week the government announced new support for working parents that will be introduced in 2015.
Given that only seven children of Royal Holloway parents are currently using our nursery (in part, I’m sure, due to the uncertainty of this process), and given that we are a commuting university with a high number of parents living at some distance, it is understandable that this parent-focused subsidy to be used in the setting of choice, rather than a subsidy tied to one nursery only, is the direction of travel, and might be more equitable for parents anyway.
What does this mean for the nursery on campus?
We believe that it is still vitally important for us to have a nursery on campus, for those staff who want to use it, and it is our intention to secure a permanent provider for this as soon as possible. However this will not be a workplace nursery.
We know that parents are very happy with the level of care provided by Nature’s Nursery and we hope that they will agree to a further extension of their temporary contract to ensure that there is no interruption to the provision. This will give us the time we need to re-tender a permanent contract on standard commercial terms, and we do not anticipate that there will be any obstacles to this.
As part of that process, we will ensure that Royal Holloway staff and students are given priority for places in the new nursery, and explore ways that we can hold places for visiting and new staff.
It is very disappointing for the staff who use this nursery that we will not be able to secure workplace nursery status, and it is frustrating that, due to the continual tightening of HMRC requirements, it has taken us so long to reach this point. However, I am confident that there are no further obstacles and we should have a more permanent nursery on site in a matter of months, as well as a package of subsidy from government that helps all our parents – not just those who want to use our nursery – with their childcare costs.
For queries about campus nursery provision please contact Trudi Mortimore, Human Resources Manager: Trudi.Mortimore@rhul.ac.uk